My co-worker Jason Schultz has written a great LawGeek article about the way that copyright and the Kuleshov effect
(in which art can be made to mean opposing things throught framing or recontextualizing) interact. The US courts have handed down some jaw-droppingly stupid rulings on this matter, as it turns out, in relation to a company called Albuquerque ART.
ART specialized in buying up books and art-cards, cutting them up and glueing them to tiles, then selling the tiles. This seems pretty straightforward: if you buy the book, you own it -- you should be able to glue the pages to anything you care to and sell them on, provided that everyone concerned knows that you're not selling the original deal, and provided that you are actually buying and cutting up actual books, and not just buying one copy and scanning it and running off fresh copies from your laser-printer.
ART got sued by various people, and the courts handed down rulings that said that while framing a picture isn't an infringement of the author's copyright over derivative works, that really, really outre frames that change the context do infringe -- the next time you think about getting a New Yorker cover framed for the toilet wall, think again:
The court cannot agree that permanently affixing a notecard to a ceramic tile is not recasting, transforming or adapting the original art work. Placing a print or painting in a frame and covering it with glass does not recast or transform the work of art. It is commonly understood that this amounts to only a method of display. Moreover, it is a relatively simple matter to remove the print or painting and display it differently if the owner chooses to do so. Neither of these things is true of the art work affixed to a ceramic tile. Moreover, tiles lend themselves to other uses such as trivets (individually) or wall coverings (collectively).
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